Monday, 20 May 2019

this life


A single from the band Vampire Weekend’s new album, Father of the Bride, their first release in six years and one of eighteen cleverly composed and fastidious tracks on the record.

a sigil of jupiter in taffeta with a fair ribbon

Via Miss Cellania’s Links, we are directed to a curated trove of medical records with notes by attending the physicians, astrologers royal Simon Forman (*1552 – †1611) and Richard Napier (*1559 - †1634), that’s been transcribed and catalogued by pathology: witchcraft, venereal disease, demonic possession, blunt trauma, infertility, etc. Contraindications, diagnosis and treatment are usually indicated, gleaned from astrological charting (see also) in most causes—though not always transcribed, spelling modernised and standardised for reference and readability.

Not to betray patient confidentiality but these records are a fascinating look at the state of medical science on the cusps of two ages—the late, late medieval times just before a period of enlightenment and is an interesting contrast between what we’d consider magical thinking and superstition and the wholistic approach to healing. Here’s an example below—with five hundred others to peruse at the site above, a consult the accompanying astral images to divine a treatment plan:

Richard Cowly of Tinswicke, 30 years.
Tuesday 30 April 1605, 9.00 am. A bachelor.
[In chart] afflicted in mind. Frantic & lunatic.
Trine between Saturn and Venus.
7 trine with Jupiter and Mars.
Conjunction between Sun and Mercury.
Square between Jupiter and Venus.
Trine between Jupiter and Mercury approaching May 2.
He came yesterday to Mr Gerent when I was from home & he willed him to be let blood & he is somewhat mended ever since. Keeps his bed. Tuesday was seven nights. Has taken great grief touching one whom he loved & promised marriage & is now married. & he has much thought & grief. Very wild & as one frantic. Much tormented in mind & very sick. Talks idly. Cannot sleep.

formulaic writing

This essay by David Labaree on the fetishizing of the five paragraph essay format by pupils and teachers alike, stressing form over content rather than unpacking how by learning the conventions and limitations of expression, one is liberated (“A grateful mind by owing owes not, but still pays, at once indebted and discharged; what burden then?” – John Milton Paradise Lost) is well worth reading in its entirety and has a wealth of take-away notions to consider.
Practising the forms and presenting a rote assignment that illustrates for the learner and listener how words hang together can be an important exercise but not when it’s perpetuated throughout journalism and academia—all structure, a convenient template (see also) with no conviction of argument, and no substance. Such constrained writing, even if the departure therefrom is at the risk of losing one’s audience and auditors, becomes a textbook case of Goodhart’s Law—named after London School of Economics Professor Emeritus Charles Albert Eric Goodhart and originally a critique of narrow economic goals and gauges, an adage paraphrased as “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

alphabet soup or no such agency

Having relocated (see also) from Washington, DC to New York City on this day in 1919, the antecedent to the National Security Agency, a three-person operation called the Cipher Bureau, was ostensibly declared redundant after the conclusion of World War I but continued intelligence activities fronting as a business, the Code Compilation Company, providing encryption services for businesses wanting to protect trade secrets that could negatively impact stock prices and investor confidence.
Under the ægis of a group calling themselves the Black Chamber, comprised of recruits from the similarly disbanded Army cryptographic corps, the Company managed to convince Western Union and other telegraph operators to allow them access to the communication networks and focused on intercepting diplomatic cables exchanged through the many consulates concentrated in the city. After the nature of the operations came to the attention of the upper echelons of the government a decade later, the Secretary of State/Secretary of War Henry Lewis Stimson ordered the Company to be shutdown, with the remark, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” With the outbreak of World War II and the US entry, the talent pool was conscripted again and underwent several re-organisations and fell under the auspices of different military and civilian activities until finally centralised as the Armed Forces Security Agency, with the responsibility for all cryptographic analysis, recognising the precariousness of the geopolitical situation post-war, on 20 May 1949. Due to conflicts between civilian and military intelligence resources and over-compartmentalisation, President Harry S Truman formally established a civilian equivalent three years later through a then classified directive to share intelligence for their joint mission.

système international d’unités

Since its inception, the metric or the SI system of weights and measures has striven to be universal for all people at all times, regardless of whether le Grand K (plus its archival cousins stored for reference around the world) was ever so slowly disintegrating.
Or whether interplanetary tradespeople were trying to reckon a payload whose gravity was a constantly changing factor, so having finally achieved shifting the definition away from some physical artefact and anchoring the weight to a natural constant is a big accomplishment.  Officially pegging the kilogram to the Planck constant—which also has redefined the meter—allows any sufficiently competent laboratory to derive the value uniformly and independently without the intervention of a governing body and occurs from today on, World Metrology Day, held on the anniversary of the signing of the Metre Convention of 1875, an international treaty with the aim of standardising measurements of length and distance.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

vie et habitat des animaux fantastique

Via the always amazing Maps Mania, we are directed towards an incredible interactive version of Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin “Carte Genlle. de la France Septle. Contenant la Descouverte du Pays des Illinois” (1675) mapping an expedition two years earlier down the Mississippi River geographically as well as noting the mostly real though sometimes purely fantastical beasts and at other times challenged for the right habit in a comprehensive chart and travelogue for the governor of New France.
Be sure to check out the source link up top for more original and  historical maps in the same vein and other more contemporary examples of limning in terra nullius and terra incognito as points unknown with comparable esoteric warnings (hic sunt dracones and other related cautionary signs).